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Frequently Asked Questions - Trading

This FAQ was written in 1996 by Jason Millner and the Rev. Kevin Robbins, two of the most experienced and dedicated traders around. It was updated in 2003 by Dave Mallick and posted to BluesTraveler.net on its relaunch. If you have additional questions regarding trading and you can't find the answer here, try the blackcat mailing list or the message board.



How do I get started trading live recordings?

There are any number of ways to get started collecting live recordings. Some methods have better netiquette than others. The most generally endorsed methods are:

Respond to a "newbie" offer: On the message board of this website or on the blackcat mailing list, veteran traders post notices to people without live Blues Traveler, a.k.a. "fledglings" or "newbies". The message may have some kind of question or stipulation. If that stipulation is met, then the newbie can send the veteran some blank CDs and return postage in stamps. The veteran will record the shows and return them to the fledgling.

Get on an "Adopt a Fledgling" tree: Every so often, someone may post an adopt a fledgling tree. Both veteran traders and fledglings sign up. The veterans adopt a few of the fledglings and burn shows for them. Again, the fledgling must provide blanks and return postage. This is the ideal way to get started. You have to meet no stipulations and you will most likely get several shows that are relatively rare. If you get some rare shows, you can be assured that other veterans will want to trade with you.

Sign up for every tree that is posted to the net: One of the ways that shows get into mass circulation is by a process called a tree. Trees are a way to get shows out rapidly to a number of people. As a fledgling, sign up for every tree that you see. You will want to sign up as a leaf for your first few. Leaves just have to send blanks and postage, or arrange a trade, with their branch and they will get a copy of the show. This is a good way to get shows. The show that you get will not be rare, but many people miss trees for whatever reason. This allows you to trade with those people who miss the tree.

Download shows: The latest step in trading does not involve sending or receiving packages at all, but instead downloading SHN files and trading those around. SHN is a form of lossless compression, sort of like WinZip, for audio files. Unlike mp3, SHN compression gives exactly the same file as you started with, rather than cutting out frequencies and reducing the sample rate.

A growing number of traders are using their personal computers as hosts for several shows at a time, and letting people connect via FTP to download them. Another download option is FurthurNet. FurthurNet was developed as a Napster equivalent, but only for taper-friendly bands, i.e. only legally-tradeable files. Using FuthurNet is easy - just download the client, search for shows you want, and start downloading them. Once you have a few shows, you can leave them up to be shared and downloaded by others. The last and most recent download option is BitTorrent. This is typically reserved for shows that are in extremely high demand, and is usually done over a small period of time rather than leaving the files up for months and months like on an FTP site or FurthurNet. Electronic distribution is very effective because once a show has been downloaded by a few people, they can then offer it around to others who may not have the high-speed connection necessary to download these large files.

What is the single worst way to get started?

The least effective way is to post a general grovel to the net. Whether it is the blackcat mailing list, the Barter Exchange, or another trading board, any message that basically says "I don't have any shows, can anybody help me out?" is going to be met by very few responses, if any. You may get someone to help, you may not. Many veterans never read grovels because they take no effort to write and show very little forethought. A personal approach is a much better way of going about it - find a show or two that you think might be interested, write a personalized email to a trader explaining why you want the show, how you found their list, etc. Even if you have nothing to trade, you can offer to send blanks & postage for your first few shows, until you have something to offer in return.

What if it was my first show, though?

Same story. Though there are some traders who will respond to a grovel for a first show. Hey, we're all partial to our first show and know how difficult it may have been for us to get ours.

Once I get started, how far can I go?

With the type of trading and downloading going on today, it is possible to download a few shows a week depending on the speed of your connection. The biggest collections out there have over a thousand shows, and there are new shows being taped and entering circulation by the week.


Alt.music.blues-traveler - The Usenet newsgroup that discusses BT. Somewhat deprecated these days as it has been taken over by spammers.

Analog - Standard Cassette Tape. Analog refers to way the music is recorded onto the tape. As these tapes are recorded for other people, the sound quality deteriorates and tape hiss becomes more audible. (See also Generation)

Audience - Also referred to as "AUD" This is one of the "sources" of a tape. An audience tape is recorded with microphones which are set up in the venue. These recordings are marked by a higher level of crowd noise. Audience recordings can be some of the best made, with the right equipment. The quality of sound on audience recordings varies widely with the venue of the show, the location of the microphones, and the equipment that each individual taper uses.

Black-Cat Mailing List - This is another fan forum that emerged when the mailing list version of the "newsgroup" died. This group is made up of long-term fans and traders. Perhaps the best and most immediate source of information regarding anything BT.

Board - Soundboard (see also: Soundboard)

Boot or Bootleg - This term should only be used to discuss illegal live CD's; some traders refer to the legal recordings made as bootlegs as well, but the preferred term for these are simply "live recordings".

CD - Compact Disc. Some folks make the mistake of buying bootleg CD's. When they see the light, they might burn that CD for a friend and put it into circulation by "liberating" it. CD is another "source" for a tape. In addition to illegal boots, some fans have actually purchased radio shows on CD from sources as "Goldmine" or Internet stores and auctions. These CD's are not illegal, and tend to have the best sound available, since they are professionally recorded as a mix of soundboard and audience "sources." (See also Matrix, and SBD+AUD)

Clone - A copy of a DAT. This may or may not have a generation attached to it.

DAT - Digital Audio Tape. These tapes record material digitally, as opposed to analog, and produce very high quality recordings of shows. DAT's, unlike analog tapes, do not produce hiss nor does their sound degrade, at least theoretically, with successive "generations." Unfortunately one cannot play DAT's in an analog deck.

Date - The date of the show.

DAUD0, DSBD0, or DFM0 - These initials are used by traders to signify that their recording is the "master", or one made at the show. Any tape that has a D before its source has a DAT in its "lineage" and should be of very high quality.

Fledgling - A person without reordings. This term got started by a person on the "newsgroup" as a way to stop using the term "newbie."

FOB - This term is more used by traders of the Grateful Dead, but it has appeared on a few Traveler lists as well. FOB stands for "Front of Board". This means that the show was recorded from in front of the soundboard. This can greatly improve the sound of a recording that was made in a large venue, such as Madison Square Garden, but is not always permitted by all bands.

FM - Refers to a show that was recorded from a radio broadcast. Radio broadcasts can be very high-quality recordings, particularly if the commercials and station ID's are edited out. The broadcast generally is taken from the soundboard with additional sound coming from audience microphones. FM is yet another "source". (See also: Pre-FM)

Generation - This used to be a highly important term in trading analog tapes, as it would say a lot about the sound quality of a tape. As cassettes are played back and copied, they lose some of the original signal. For example: Mike tapes the Red Rocks show on the 4th of July. His tapes are the "master" tapes. He records a copy for Kevin on cassette. Kevin's tape is a 1st generation tape. Kevin's copy sounds almost exactly like Mike's. Kevin dubs a copy for Jason. Jason's tape is a 2nd generation tape. It sounds almost as good as Kevin's, but there may be some slightly noticeable differences between Jason's tape and the Master tape. Jason records a copy for Robin. Robin's tape is a 3rd generation tape. Etc. etc. etc. Most DAT traders do not count what generation of "clone" they have. In tape labeling, the number of generation is added to the source of the tape. In the above example, Mike's tape would be AudM, or Aud0, designating it the master tape. Kevin's would be Aud1. Jason's would be Aud2. And so on.

Goldmine - A trade magazine that can be a source of high quality legal live shows that were used for radio broadcasts. The prices are generally steep, though.

HQ - High Quality

Master - The original recording made at a show.

Matrix - See SBD+AUD

Newbie - A term for a person who has no shows. Considered by some to be derogatory. See also: Fledgling.

Newsgroup - See alt.music.blues-traveler.

Patch - A connection to the soundboard or another deck that allows a taper to record the show.

Pre-FM - This refers to a recording made at a show, but from a deck patched into the same source that was going out to the FM stations. These recordingss are among best quality available, as they have sufficient crowd noise to make you think you are at the show, but the sound clarity is of soundboard quality.

SBD+AUD - This refers to a recording that has both a soundboard source and an audience microphone source that were mixed to produce a tape, also known as a matrix. In the estimation of this writer, these are the single best recordings available. They actually sound like a live release by a record company. FM broadcasts use a SBD+AUD source.

Segues - The process of linking up two or more songs without stopping. Blues Traveler does this frequently. Setlists often incorporate an arrow to denote a segue. Example: Go>Low>Outta>Run>Go. This would indicate a show that had Go Outside & Drive segue into Low Rider segue into Outta My Hands segue into Run-Around segue back into Go Outside & Drive.

Set - Some bands like Blues Traveler play two sets at show. A set is generally an hour to an hour and a half of music. At the close of the set, the band takes a break and comes back for the second set. If a trader has only part of a show, his/her list may reflect this by stating that they have the 1st set only, or the 2nd set only.

Setlist - The list of songs that a band plays at the show.

Soundboard - Also referred to as SBD. This refers to the actual soundboard at shows. In taping jargon it refers to shows that have a soundboard feed as their source. Tapers in the past have been able to get a board patch to record. Generally these recordings are very high quality. The drawback to SBD recordings is that any audience participation in songs, such as the "Follow the Leader" section of Brother John, may not even appear on the audio.

Source - This refers to the source of signal that was used to record a show. Common sources are audience microphones (AUD), soundboard patches (SBD), FM Broadcasts (FM), Pre-FM patches (Pre-FM, or PFM), or Compact Disc (CD).

Tape History - Some tapers like to keep a history of how a recording was made and transmitted. These histories could be as simple as a list of how many generations have occurred in which format, or can be as extensive as listing microphones, angles of recording, type of deck used to record the show, and many other variables. Following are examples of two different tape histories of the same tape:

Nak 300's  >  D7  >  A  >  A
(mics)     (deck)  (two cassette generations)

Tape Nomenclature - This is the series of initials and numbers that tell you what you need to know about a recording's source and generation. The most common nomenclature is (Source)(Generation). Example: SBD1 is a 1st generation Soundboard tape. If the master tape was a DAT, then many people add a D to the front of the nomenclature. See also DAUD0, etc.

Venue - The name of the place where the show was recorded.


I have been reading the Blues Traveler newsgroup, e-mail list, Barter Exchange, and I have started trading a little, but I see all these abbreviations and terms that I can't make out. Any help?

Well, of course. As with many bands, Blues Traveler has a language all its own, affectionately known by fans as "Travelerese". Hopefully this "Dictionary of Travelerese" will help to straighten you out.

AitG - All In The Groove
ASIG - And So It Goes (unreleased tune)
Buthead - But Anyway
Breakfast - What's For Breakfast
Bridge - Manhattan Bridge
BroJo - Brother John
BT - Blues Traveler (duh!)
BTW - By the way
DAT - Digital Audio Tape
D&D - Defense & Desire
DSNYC - Dropping Some NYC
Flamer - Crystal Flame
GAAG - Gigs At A Glance
GBU - The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
GBW - Great Big World
CDTP - Closing Down The Park
GOAD - Go Outside & Drive
GGM - Gotta Get Mean
harp - another term for a harmonica
H.O.R.D.E. - Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere
IHMM - I Have My Moments
IMHO - In my humble opinion
JBG - Johnny B. Goode
JP - John Popper
LFTF - Live From The Fall
L&G - Love & Greed
LOML - Love Of My Life
Lucky Lack - The Poignant & Epic Saga Of Featherhead And Lucky Lack
MoFo - Mother Funker (unreleased tune)
MWA - The Mountains Win Again
NYC - Dropping Some NYC
NYE - New Year's Eve
Opta - Optimistic Thought
OTF - On Tour Forever (limited CD)
Run(s) - Run-Around
SBD - soundboard
SD - Spin Doctors
SHS - Save His Soul
SISoSIG - Should I Stay Or Should I Go
SSB - The Star-Spangled Banner
SSM - Spinning Spiraling Machine (unreleased tune)
STH - Sweet Talking Hippie
SYLE - Support Your Local Emperor
TnT - Travelers and Thieves
WFB - What's For Breakfast


What is a tree?

In trading circles, a tree is a way to distribute a show to a large number of people. Essentially, it is an organized series of trades. This is generally how a tree occurs:

Someone gets a very high quality copy of a show, and they post a sign up form to the message board or the blackcat mailing list.

This sign up asks for some information from any person who wants to be a part of the tree. Standard questions include: Name, email address, address, phone #, branch or leaf. If you are a branch, how many leaves will you burn for, what kind of equipment you have, and occasionally some fun questions that have nothing to do with the tree.

Branches burn copies for other people, who are known as leaves. Leaves do not have to make copies of the show they get. They do generally trade with their branch, or send blanks and postage, for their copies of the show.

Once the deadline for the sign-ups has passed, the tree structure is posted on a web page somewhere. This structure is generally sent to all the places that the sign up was sent to. Tree structures generally look like this:

The Ranger

Yogi is the branch. He makes copies for Boo-boo and the Ranger, who are leaves.

Do trees ever get so big that some people are both leaves and branches?

Yes, but in those cases the tree has three levels: high branches, branches, and leaves. Here is a sample structure for a three-level tree:



John is the high branch. Bobby, Brendan, and Chan are the branches. The rest are leaves.


What are all these great Blues Traveler concert CDs I see in stores?

In short, the vast majority of them are illegal. They are not authorized by the band, and the band makes no money from them, so DO NOT BUY THEM. All of the illegal bootlegs CDs that this website has heard of are readily available for trade on the various trading sites as well as the message board and the blackcat e-mail list. The hallmarks of these illegal shows is that they are extremely expensive (some upwards of $50 for a double disc), and often include incorrect dates and song titles.

A listing of all of the known illegal bootleg CDs can be found in the Blues Traveler discography, but PLEASE REMEMBER, BLUES TRAVELER ALLOWS TRADING. As long as their shows are not sold, Blues Traveler fully *encourages* its fans to distribute live recordings of its music. Click here to read the full text of Blues Traveler's official taping policy. If you already own a bootleg CD, and it is not in circulation as a SHN, you may want to consider "liberating" it - read more in the taping/converting FAQ on how to do this.

Please also remember, Blues Traveler's double live disc Live From the Fall, released in July, 1996, IS an authorized Blues Traveler release, put out by its label A&M Records, as is Live: What You And I Have Been Through, released through ArtistDirect in 2002. In addition, a limited 4-song live disc titled On Tour Forever was released with Travelers and Thieves in 1992. Only 10,000 copies were pressed, so it is no longer commercially available, but has been sighted at used CD stores around the country and on various auction sites on the Internet.


Are then any generally accepted trading procedures I should know about?

Yes. Most traders prefer to use CDs made in Japan, by manufacturers such as Taiyo Yuden and Mitsui. Many companies that sell CDs purchase the discs from these two manufacturers and rebrand them as Fujis, Memorex, HP, and others. Sometimes the packaging will not reveal where the CDs are from, but Taiyo Yudens are easily identifiable by a slightly frosted center and an off-white screw top on the spindle. A program like Feurio! or CDR-Identifier will help you read the ATIP information on CDs you already own to find out where they were manufactured; read the instructions that come with these programs to find out how to do this.

Also, it is a good idea not to send jewel cases. Most traders will send their CDs in Tyvek or paper sleeves. Jewel cases just add to the cost of shipping and tend to break in transit.

So, once I have started trading, how do I let people know what shows I have?

The best way to let people know what shows you have is to keep a list that you can either e-mail to people or post on a web site. There are several essential, as well as several optional pieces of information that should be on your list. The essentials include: date, venue, city/state, length of show. The non-essentials include the source and generation, a "grade", and any additional comments that you may want to make about the show. However, be forewarned that the documentation of shows is becoming much more commonplace these days, and some traders will refuse to trade with people who do not know the lineage of their show. Let's look at a couple examples...

08/02/91 Paradise Club  Boston MA   90 min SBD2   A-  Set II only

This show took place August 2, 1991 at the Paradise Club in Boston Massachusetts. It takes two sides of a 90 minute tape to get this show. The source is the soundboard, and it is 2nd generation (see definitions question). It also includes only set II of the show.

12/31/95 Roseland Ballroom, New York NY  180 min  AUDDAT1 A-  Lots of Guests

Again, the date, city, state and venue here are pretty self-explanatory. The source is the audience, and this tape happens to be direct from the master DAT (see definitions) The comment on this show is "Lots of Guests", which in this case includes Warren Haynes, Chris Barron, Arnie Lawrence, and Orlando Hill.

Keep a compiled list of all of your shows. If you will be e-mailing it, be sure to remember to either save your list as a text file or post it on the web somewhere, either on a personal page or on a site that hosts trading lists like db.etree.org or phishhook.com. Otherwise, you may lose your list, which becomes a real pain after you get about 5 shows.

It is also a good idea to start your list with a small note detailing your trading procedures. This may include what type of CDs and/or burner you use, how long it takes you to get a trade done, etc.

So what is the best way to label CDs?

Preferences on this vary, but some people will tell you that writing on discs with a Sharpie is a big no-no, while others do it without a problem. The safest way is to simply write the information on the inner hub of your disc - band, date and disc number - and keep track of the setlist and tracking information elsewhere, on one of the above sites or as a .txt file that you can print out or send to others. For CDs you are sending out as part of a trade to someone else, you should never write on them, nor should you put stickies on the disc itself. Use stickies on the CD sleeve or small scraps of paper dropped into the with the CD, and let the recipient write on the disc as he/she sees fit.

Ok, once I have set up a trade, what is the best way for me to mail the package?

First off, remember to use padded or bubble mailing envelopes. This website recommends bubble mailers for the simple reason that the recycled newspaper envelopes tend to tear on the inside in transit, coating all the contents in ground newspaper. Also, please, reuse envelopes. Not only is is good for the environment, but it saves you money. And it's kinda fun to see where else the envelope has gone before it gets to you. If you're mailing CDs without cases, another option is cardboard CD mailers; they are flat and economical, and CDs don't need as much padding as other media do.

As far as mailing goes, when addressing your package, always be sure to include the return address on the envelope, as well as INSIDE the envelope. On rare cases, envelopes are mutilated, and the address becomes unreadable. A note inside with both the address where the package is going, and from whence it came can save headaches. It's also nice for someone who's doing a blanks & postage deal for you to see a note inside thanking them for doing you a favor. Kindness is often repaid in spades.

You may wish to insure your package if you get to doing large trades regularly. Simply put, insure any package whose value you cannot do without. Insurance is cheap, and will allow you to be reimbursed should your package be destroyed or lost. Fortunately, events like these are few and far between.

Packages can go first class or fourth class. This website suggests mailing all of your packages first class. Fourth class mail (also known as book rate or media rate) is certainly cheaper, but it has been known to take up to a week longer for fourth class mail to be delivered.

First class mail is faster, but more expensive. Packages with CDs work the same way as regular mail: $0.33 for the first ounce, $0.27 for each additional ounce. This works up to 13 oz., after which you will be charged $3.85, and your package will be sent Priority Mail. Priority Mail is the USPS's 2-3 day package service, but note that 2-3 days is the *average* for all Priority Mail parcels, including those that only take one day.

And remember, as of August 16, 1996, all packages over one pound must be mailed in person from a US Post Office. This is for security reasons, protecting US commercial airliners contracted to carry US Mail.


So I decide to trade with someone, how can I REALLY know that they will send me the showss?

You can't really know. Trading relies on people trusting other people and being trustworthy. Generally speaking, getting ripped off happens, but it is not anywhere nearly as common an occurrence as one might expect. There are some traders who have never lost a show due to an unscrupulous trader. Others have been ripped off more than once.

Ok, then how do I avoid getting ripped off?

First and foremost, communicate with your trading partner about everything. Many trades done over the Internet take 3 or 4 e-mails to get arranged. This should not be frustrating, it should be an assurance. Second, if you haven't traded with someone, or if they are a new face on the newsgroup or the Black-Cat Mailing list, you might want to limit the trade to two or four shows. If the person is widely known, they are most likely a reliable trader. Third, communicate with the person with whom you are trading after you have mailed the package. Make sure that both of you have mailed on the agreed upon date. If you have to be late, be courteous and e-mail your trade partner. The key to not getting ripped off lies largely in being careful and communicating. In many cases, traders have gotten worried over shows not arriving "on time", when one or both parties have not fully communicated what was going on.

So, what do I do if I think I am being ripped off?

First, try contacting the person with whom you are trading. If they do not reply, give them a few weeks. A person can be overloaded at school or work to the point that they don't check their e-mail for awhile. Vacations are not unheard of, either. Next, ask other traders that you know if they have traded with this person before. This can alleviate a lot of worries or confirm some suspicions. Finally, if you have not received any e-mail messages in response to your questions from the person with whom you are trading, after a month and a half to two months of attempts, you might choose to write a note to the list explaining what happened, stating only the facts and asking if anyone has had contact with the trader. When personal opinions get involved, it becomes a Bad Trader post. Public opinion on Bad Trader posts varies. Some think it is the only way to stop bad traders. Others think that they are absolutely rude and cause innocent folks who got overloaded by trades, work, or personal tragedy to be falsely accused of theft. One thing that both sides of this issue tend to agree upon is that the Bad Trader post should not be a series of flames and insults, but should be a simple retelling of what happened when you traded with the individual who has not sent you the promised package.

Above all, remember that trading is supposed to be a fun activity and a hobby. If it's costing you too much money to lose an occasional package, or causing emotional anguish, trading may not be for you. You may wish to seek out download sites which can be much more reliable, but are harder to find. Have fun!